34. Editorial Note

When he returned from his trip to Asia and Romania, President Nixon briefed Congressional leaders on August 4, 1969, on the new policy he had outlined in Guam. In the process, he drew the broader implications of the policy:

“The centerpiece of the meeting was a monologue by the President on his just completed trip to Southeast Asia, South Asia and Romania. The President began the meeting with a discussion of American policy in Asia. He said that if you gentlemen are somewhat confused by the seeming contradiction between my statements in various Asian countries, this is quite deliberate. American policy in Asia is in a transition stage. We have to realize that these are different countries requiring different approaches; the U.S. must move away from a monolithic approach to a country-by-country approach in the area. However, that approach will work only if we have some general operative principles. The President then reverted to his own background; I came from the ‘era of pacts,’ he said. I supported this approach in the past, but now 25 years after World War II, we have to revise our policy to meet the new situation. It is important this be done subtly and gradually.

“The President said that his visits with Yahya Khan in Pakistan and Ceausescu in Romania were worth going half way around the world to see. He said their reports were extremely helpful regarding the Sino-Soviet problem, and that we have difficulty getting hard intelligence on this because we simply have no agents in some of those areas. The policy we should begin to follow now, he indicated, is this. [Page 99] The U.S. must keep the commitments it has made thus far, the treaties it has made, because a failure here would bring drastic repercussions both in terms of what would happen to the people and in terms of American credibility in the area. However, we should not expand any treaty; the time has come to examine our commitments on a country by country basis. In some areas, he said, it is not in our interest to have an agreement. I don’t believe we should become involved in some of these areas if we can possibly avoid it. However, he reiterated that he felt that history would vindicate the decisions in Vietnam and that the war there is in the basic interest of peace in the Pacific. The President reaffirmed his conviction that were it not for the U.S. keeping the cork in the bottle in Vietnam, the 115 million people in Indonesia would now be under Communist rule. These then were the basics of the new policy:

“To maintain the credibility of America’s existing commitments and to make no new commitments in the area. However, if a major power should move across a border openly, this would be a different ball game, but since that would involve a confrontation of some kind with the U.S., the President felt the likelihood of that kind of activity to be small. Our policy in the future, he said, will be to help them fight the war and not fight the war for them. This referred to other non-Communist Asian nations.

“In the event that the difficulties in an Asian country arise from an internal threat, these countries will be called upon to handle it entirely on their own. In the event that the aggression within is subsidized from the outside, we will provide them with American assistance in the form of arms and material, but we will not provide the troops. This is the new approach: we will help them in a material way and not a manpower way, he said.” (Notes drafted by Patrick J. Buchanan and submitted to the President in a memorandum dated August 5; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 79, Memoranda for the President, Aug 3-Dec 28, 1969)

According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held at 8:35 a.m. in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Eleven Senators and eleven Members of the House of Representatives attended the bipartisan leadership meeting. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files, Office of Presidential Papers and Archives, Daily Diary)